Most veggies found in my home province of Bicol end up as delectable native dishes enjoyed by countless Filipinos and foreigners alike.
Our secret? COCONUT MILK and red hot CHILI PEPPER mixed with the veggies.
"Gabi" or taro in English (tangoy in Bicol) is a very common veggie root crop in this part of the world. The root itself is used as an ingredient in many kinds of stew or soup. It can be eaten boiled or sweetened.
Taro leaves also find its way in a Bicolano dish called "LAING". But beware, you must have a keen eye in choosing the good and right variety of taro leaves. In areas like farms and rice fields, you can find lots of taro plants thriving along carabao or water buffalo wallowing pools. Taro leaves gathered from this site can leave your tongue with an itchy after taste even when cooked. To identify the best kind of taro, look for the one that has a reddish color at the center of the plant. Below is a photo for your reference.
I am happy to find taro leaves of this kind sold in our market place. Like I said, it takes a keen eye to spot the best taro veggie.
Here is how to cook these appetizing dishes:
(A) LAING (Taro Leaves in Coconut Milk)
My way of cooking LAING Bicol style is:
(A.1) Boil thinly sliced fresh taro leaves and stalks (peeled) in water. DO NOT stir. Drain when cooked.
(A.2) Add coconut milk, salt, boneless smoked fish and crushed garlic. Boil. With or without monosodium glutamate (MSG), taro root, crushed ginger and pepper is fine.
(A.3) Add "Knorr" chicken or pork broth cubes and coconut cream with thinly sliced onions. Lower heat. Turn off the stove after few minutes (DON'T FORGET lest you end up with a grilled dish. LOL!).
Serve with pasta or steaming plain rice and cold drinks.
(B) GINATAANG LANGKA (Unripe Jackfruit in Coconut Milk)
Click HERE and learn how I cook jackfruit and other fruit veggies in coconut milk - the Bicol way.
Even if my stomach churns and turns upside down to my gluttonous eating of jackfruit mixed with my favorite boneless smoked fish or large sand crabs (alimango) filled with its highly nutritious eggs, oh God I just can't stop over eating! It's so appetizing and extremely delectable!
Over eating Jackfruit is NOT advisable for pregnant women. It can cause severe constipation. Am glad I am not YET pregnant! LOL!
(C) KINUNOT (Moringa with Stingray or Shark Meat in Coconut Milk)
Another favorite Bicol dish of mine is called "KINUNOT". It is a kind of fish stew cooked with lots of highly nutritious "malunggay" or moringa leaves. Yes, and the fish that goes with it is... a Stingray (pagi) or a SHARK (pating)! Move over Jaws! Hehehe! I love shark meat, that is -- IF it is cooked right. Otherwise, you'd end up with an unpleasant fishy dish.
The best cooks of this delicacy are our local fishermen. This is how they prepare yummy "kinunot":
(C.1) Wash and clean the stingray or the shark (remove the sandpaper like texture of its skin) then boil until it is tender.
(C.2) Shred the shark or stingray meat and soak in vinegar for a few minutes then hand squeeze and drain the meat to eliminate its obnoxious fishiness.
(C.3) Sauté drained stingray or shark meat with lots of garlic, enough salt, and ground black pepper.
(C.4) Add a good serving of coconut milk. Boil then mix moringa leaves, red small hot chili pepper and coconut cream with thinly sliced onions. Voila! A delicious "kinunot" ready for serving.
According to our local fishermen, the Hammerhead and the Sand sharks are the most delicious choice for "kinunot". They avoid cooking a shark we locally call "talanggi" because it can take forever to tenderize its meat. It is only the liver oil of this shark that our local Chinese make use of.
If ever I would want to eat "kinunot", I will definitely hire an expert fisherman to cook it for me. I don't want to end up with a yucky meal.
By the way, one good alternative to "malunggay" or moringa leaves is cassava. Yes, mash the young leaves in salt and tightly squeeze. Then slice them thinly and add the leaves into the "kinunot" dish. Cassava leaves are very edible, nutritious and adds flavor to your cooking. But beware, wild cassava or one that is grown from its own fruit is said to be poisonous and not fit for human consumption. You can identify this variety thru its leaves. Edible cassava has seven-finger leaves while wild cassava has only 3-5 finger leaves.
Every dish or viand cooked the Bicolano way almost always has coconut milk as its main ingredient. Whether it be pork, chicken, beef and seafoods, you will find them cooked in coconut milk. A famous Filipino dish, chicken or squid ADOBO is normally cooked without coconut milk in many parts of the country. But in Bicol, I'd say any "adobo" becomes more palatable when cooked in coconut milk.
I remember I used to cook Bicolano food for my boardmates during my college days. We eat all together and God, you can see how my mates devour my Bicolano dishes with much gusto. However, if your tummy isn't programmed to eat lots of milky and very spicy Bicolano food, you may end up with stomach problems. Please pass the toilet paper. Hehehe!
Us Bicolanos have a very forgiving and resilient, or should I say, tough digestive system and taste buds that enables us to naturally take and accept food cooked and mixed in coconut milk and very spicy hot chili peppers. Bicol Express is one example of this dish. It is a hot pepper dish mixed with pork and shrimp, veggies and coconut milk.
To the untrained, it is advisable to eat Bicol Express near a fire extinguisher or beside a fire hydrant. LOL!
As a blue blooded Bicolana, I was born and raised in a kitchen. I can cook Bicolano food without using measuring cups or utensils. One glance at the ingredients, I know the exact amounts I need to put in the pot. That's my good sense of estimation at work.
Here are more Bicolano recipes on youtube:
Bicol Express with Veggies
Chicken Adobo with Moringa in Coconut Milk
Squash and String Beans or Cowpea with Crab in Coconut Milk
Winged Beans in Coconut Cream
Banana Flower with Boneless Smoked Fish in Coconut Milk